The men’s volleyball team resumed MPSF play Thursday night with a four-set loss to No. 5 Stanford at Maples Pavilion.
Since their last MPSF outing two weeks ago, the Trojans had won two straight against Concordia and Holy Names. Their aim was to build off that momentum tonight, but they fell flat out of the gates in Palo Alto.
Stanford took the match in four sets (25-16, 25-23, 23-25, 25-30) and they seemed to be in control the whole time. First-team All-MPSF middle and hopeful MPSF player of the year senior Conrad Kaminski rattled USC with a team-high 11 kills and .611 hitting percentage. He put an exclamation mark on his performance with an impressive over-the-shoulder reverse kill in the fourth set.
Stanford did not play perfectly, though, and they would have appeared vulnerable if USC had brought its A-game. The Cardinal (16-3, 14-3 MPSF) hit a dismal .040 in set three and only marginally raised that percentage in set four. Rather, they won the match at the net and behind the service line. Stanford shared 26 block assists to USC’s 12, and their 10 aces to 14 service errors speak to their serving prowess.
The Trojans (6-15, 4-13 MPSF) haphazardly served themselves a loss, putting up just 3 aces to 27 service errors. Head coach Jeff Nygaard talked to the team this week about aiming for a 1:3 ace to error ratio, but the 1:9 ratio was not what they were seeking. USC’s 27 service errors handed Stanford over a fourth of its points for the match without the Cardinal even having to touch the ball.
This many errors this late in the season spells doom for the Trojans. With only five games left in MPSF play, they are not mathematically eliminated from the MPSF Tournament, but they essentially have to win out to earn the eighth seed. USC will be favored in only one remaining match (against UC San Diego) and the Trojans still have to travel to No. 6 Pepperdine and No. 3 BYU and play No. 14 UC Irvine at home.
The Trojans rotated in four freshman and sophomores today, but they still have not found that magic lineup. Tonight they fielded two setters, six outsides, and two middles – one of whom, senior John Kirchner, has only started a handful of matches all season.
All year, both players and coaches have chalked up losses to overthinking and mental lapses.
“We’re all good volleyball players here and I think we’ve been overthinking a lot of things this season,” captain senior libero Brooks Varni said before the match.
He was confident that with a consistent lineup, the wrinkles would be ironed out. Thursday night, though, the Trojans overthought from the service line as much as any other match this season.
Errors have cost the Trojans several matches in MPSF play. USC has the talent to win against any team in the nation, but the focus has not been consistent enough within matches to outcompete more experienced teams.